Good diet-friendly caffeinated drinks?
January 9, 2007 7:23 PM   Subscribe

Any good diet-friendly caffeinated beverages out there? Looking for something convenient, cheap, and low/no-cal/sugar.

Does anyone have any recommendations for a caffeinated beverage with which to start my day? I love a good cup of coffee but my hectic schedule makes it difficult to homebrew daily. I don't have the time to stop for coffee daily, and frankly I don't want to pay the premium for coffee from a shop.

I'm planning on entirely eliminating pop and sugary drinks from my diet, so I'll be drinking just bottled water throughout the day. I'll make one exception for my morning kickstart, but I'd like something sugarfree or at least low-cal/low-sugar if possible. It does need to be caffeinated however, and the more kick the better!

I love Red Bull and I'm sure Red Bull Sugarfree would satisfy me, but $20/case of 12 is a bit too rich for my blood. Forget anything labeled Starbucks, as it's equivalently overpriced. The cheaper the better!

Finally, I need something convenient. If I don't have time to brew my own pitcher of French Press (or kettle of hot tea), I'd like to be able to just grab a bottle or a can from the fridge and down it in the car during my commute.

So, what miracle beverages can you recommend? Thanks for the help, [wired] MeFites!
posted by sprocket87 to Food & Drink (52 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You could get a Keurig coffee machine, which works quite quickly and makes very good coffee (I use mine all the time).

Or you could get BuzzWater, which is just water + caffeine.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:26 PM on January 9, 2007

If the caffeine is all you care about, why not just pop a NoDoz?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:34 PM on January 9, 2007

I don't know the formal name for this, which is why I can't google for it.

The process involves taking a pound of ground coffee and putting it in a container that can hold it all. Then you add enough cold water to it to cover, stir it up good, and leave it in the refrigerator. Every couple of hours you stir it again, if you really want it to work well, but that isn't vital.

After about 12 hours you pour it through a big filter and discard all the grounds. What remains is cold-brewed coffee which is concentrated. It will keep for more than a week in the refrigerator. To make a beverage from it, you pour some into a coffee cup, add some water to dilute it, microwave it for a couple of minutes to heat it up, and drink.

It actually tastes really good. And the preparation process before imbibing takes almost no time at all.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:37 PM on January 9, 2007 [8 favorites]

Get a Toddy maker and whip up some concentrate every week or two. I used this in the summer and fall for iced coffee, and wouldn't know what to do without it now. Takes very, very little time in the morning.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:37 PM on January 9, 2007

Also not a drink, but: penguin mints. Caffeine + fresh breath, and they're no-sugar (sweetened with aspertame).
posted by dagnyscott at 7:37 PM on January 9, 2007

Diet Coke?
posted by bonheur at 7:38 PM on January 9, 2007

(What Steven describes is a Toddy maker. Great minds...)
posted by uncleozzy at 7:38 PM on January 9, 2007

(When storing it in the fridge, it needs to be in a closed container; something like an empty maple syrup bottle is ideal.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:38 PM on January 9, 2007

Make up some iced/cold tea and have it ready in your travel mug in the fridge.
posted by yohko at 7:40 PM on January 9, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the quick replies.

cerebus19, I've had the quickbrew machines before and honestly, if I'm gonna do it myself I'd rather have my French Press. Also, this may sound lame, but the convenience of a bottle/can extends further than just obtaining the drink; it also means I don't have a thermos to remember to bring home, then clean, etc.

I never have time to drink before leaving, so it's always on the way to or at work. A bottle/can is great since I can drink it at my own pace, not worrying about it getting cold, and then toss it when I'm done.

Also, the BuzzWater looks interesting, but at $40/case of 24, it's hardly inexpensive.

Faint of Butt, that's actually a good idea. It's a little disconcerting at first, since all I've heard of No-Doz is the stereotypical wired/bloodshot/manic freak stereotypes, but if it's just an equivalent shot of caffeine as is in a cup of coffee, then I guess it's not so bad. Nothing else in them?

I was thinking of good bottled Green Tea recommendations, etc, but whatever you folks like :)
posted by sprocket87 at 7:41 PM on January 9, 2007

Yuban instant coffee in hot tap water works for me.
posted by Fins at 7:42 PM on January 9, 2007

I prefer real coffee, or black tea, but both do take a few minutes (time to boil the water plus time for steeping, maybe ten minutes total?). If you are willing to drink Red Bull, how much worse could instant coffee be? You have to boil water (or put the cup in the microwave), so that's all of what, 3 minutes out of your morning? Beats $20/case.

If you don't mind drinking something cold in the morning, why not make iced tea? You can make it the "real" way, steeping the tea and all that, or with mix, which is still cheaper than your Red Bull. Make a pitcher once or twice a week, decant into a small bottle the night before, and just grab it on your way out the door.
posted by Forktine at 7:43 PM on January 9, 2007

Response by poster: The Toddy maker sounds neat but I'm concerned that it's too much effort (I don't mean to sound lazy but I really, really just like grabbing-and-going! :))

Oh, and what's the scoop with Penguin mints? I've seen them but always assumed that although that yes, they are technically caffeinated, it isn't near the dose from coffee, etc... True or false?
posted by sprocket87 at 7:44 PM on January 9, 2007

If all you're looking for is a way to mainline caffeine, then Nodoz is the way to go. Each pill is 200 milligrams of caffeine and it contains no other active ingredients.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:46 PM on January 9, 2007

Best answer: My partner recommends Diet Rockstar... I know it's expensive, but at least the cans are a lot bigger than Red Bull.

Have you tried tea? That you can brew at your desk or in your thermos. I would recommend PG Tips (no linky, keyboard broky).
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:46 PM on January 9, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips Forktine. Actually, the iced-tea pitcher just crossed my mind as well. To take it even further, I could do a large pitcher and distribute it into used water bottles in bulk, that way it's truly grab-and-go. I guess it's a similar amount of effort as with a Toddy maker, but perhaps I'm being too lazy about this :)
posted by sprocket87 at 7:47 PM on January 9, 2007

Diet Coke. It's a beverage made by The Coca-Cola Company.
posted by wfc123 at 7:50 PM on January 9, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the Diet Coke recommendations (sans sarcasm), but the idea of pumping 20oz of aspartame into my system daily is less than appealing, especially considering that my father has a seizure condition that is almost certainly triggered by intake of aspartame, at least in part.

Actually on that note, does sugarfree Red Bull contain aspartame as well? If so I'd prefer to steer clear of that as well.
posted by sprocket87 at 7:55 PM on January 9, 2007

Black Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke is my current drug of choice.
posted by solid-one-love at 7:55 PM on January 9, 2007

Just a general rule of thumb about teas: the darker the tea, the more caffeine.
posted by sbutler at 7:56 PM on January 9, 2007

Water + NoDoz = win.

As others have pointed out, NoDoz is just caffeine in a pill.
posted by Justinian at 8:04 PM on January 9, 2007

Best answer: Try green tea. Whenever I need to limit my caffeine yet keep a buzz I drink it all day. It has less caffeine in it, but what's interesting is the buzz that it does have is very soothing. You will never get the jitters, or even come down from it. If you brew it on the weaker side, you really can be drinking it all day. It's like spacing out your caffeine intake. It also has all sorts of antioxidants and stuff. Sorry, end of a 15 hour work day, I'm about to fall down so I'm too lazy to google...But hey! I made it through a 15 hour work day with green tea and not coffee as my crutch! (And yeah, tea without sugar/honey is verrrry low in calories and is pretty cheap as beverages go.) As others have said, brew up a bunch and keep a pitcher of it in the fridge or bottles to go.
posted by typewriter at 8:04 PM on January 9, 2007

If you have a well-equipped head shop near you, you should be able to purchase caffeine powder which could be added to the drink of your choice.
posted by sanko at 8:06 PM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Set your alarm clock back a minute every day. By the end of the week, you will have freed up enough time to get yourself some coffee, plus the extra five minutes will make a world of difference in perking you up and making sure you're ready and not rushed.
posted by messylissa at 8:12 PM on January 9, 2007

Actually on that note, does sugarfree Red Bull contain aspartame as well? If so I'd prefer to steer clear of that as well.

Yes, it does.
posted by null terminated at 8:13 PM on January 9, 2007

Actually on that note, does sugarfree Red Bull contain aspartame as well? If so I'd prefer to steer clear of that as well.

According to this site, it does.

They do make Diet Coke with Splenda now, too. It tastes a little different than the old aspartame version, but still tasty if you like that kind of thing.

Other than that I have no suggestions. Anything pre-bottled will probably cost you at least $1 a bottle even bought in a case. So you're left with making your own tea, etc. and making up bottles like you suggested. Personally, I've started carrying a Lexan bottle with water that I refill at night and leave in the fridge to lose that chlorine long as you can get yourself to refill the bottle every night, then it will be grab and go in the morning.
posted by cabingirl at 8:18 PM on January 9, 2007

I personally drink Diet Rite because I don't want the caffeine or the aspartame. Diet RC has the caffeine but not the aspartame.
posted by illek at 8:22 PM on January 9, 2007

Coke Zero. No aspartame, it's made with Splenda. And it almost tastes like real Coke.
posted by WaterSprite at 8:23 PM on January 9, 2007

Diet RC cola is made with sucralose (splenda) rather than aspartame or saccharin. It's got caffeine and it's tasty. I like it for all these reasons.
posted by sentient at 8:27 PM on January 9, 2007

WaterSprite -- Coke Zero does contain aspartame (in addition to sucralose and ace-k).
posted by sentient at 8:32 PM on January 9, 2007

I'm not sure if the product lasted or if it's available in all markets, but a while back I remember hearing about Diet Coke made with Splenda instead of aspartame. [on preview: what other people said]

Really your best bet is to go to a grocery store, walk down the soda aisle, and look for 1) Unsweetened iced tea products and 2) the Splenda logo on anything else caffeinated

In the tea category: I like Tejava a lot; Trader Joes Green tea is ok; finally, if you're willing to accept (IIRC) a low level of sugar, Honest Tea products are really tasty.
posted by hihowareyou at 8:43 PM on January 9, 2007

Some of the products here may interest you, although I cannot vouch for their quality/effectiveness.
posted by Partial Law at 8:46 PM on January 9, 2007

If you do decide to try any of these, especially NoDoz, you'd be well advised to try it on a weekend first just in case you over-caffeinate by accident and end up feeling sick or jittery.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:03 PM on January 9, 2007

Coke just came out with this new energy drink that burns calories, I think this is the one (Enviga). Low cal, low sugar, good antioxidants, caffiene, comes in a can. Probably not cheap, but as they say in the business world, "You want cheap, fast and high quality? Great, now pick two."

You want cheap, convenient/portable, and good for you? Great, pick two. Personally I think making a large thing of tea and dispensing into bottles is a good bet.
posted by ml98tu at 9:13 PM on January 9, 2007

p.s. Enviga is a green tea, not a pop/sugary drink from what I can tell.
posted by ml98tu at 9:25 PM on January 9, 2007

Green tee is my suggestion. Turn your kettle on before hopping in the shower. When you get back, pour the hot water over green tea leaves. Wait 3 minutes. Drink.

An electric kettle that turns itself off when it boils would probably be best.
posted by cschneid at 9:35 PM on January 9, 2007

I nth the NoDoz (or Jet Alert, or: whatever) recommendation. I use it all the time. People will often give me the "woah, intense" line and then I'm all "NOT" and explain about how I can regulate how much I get and tell me do you know how much caffeine is in that cup of coffee mr intensity I didn't think so and on and on. Eventually they come around to seeing it my way and then I win.
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:58 PM on January 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Make coffee when you get home from work in the evening, pour it into bottles, and grab-and-go as iced coffee the next morning.

You can do the same with green tea, oolong tea, etc. Add mint leaves too to mix it up sometimes.

You could also mix juice and seltzer for an Orangina kind of thing (fewer calories than juice alone).
posted by xo at 10:00 PM on January 9, 2007

Oh, and Enviga is sweetened with aspartame too.
posted by xo at 10:08 PM on January 9, 2007

As a former green tea drinker, I've found yerba mate a better morning pick me up. The energy seems to last longer, and there's some reported health benefits to the drink (vitamins, minerals as well as being higher in antioxidants than green tea). There's a traditional method that requires loose leaves and a special straw and a weird little cup but I find the tea bag format much more convenient.

Just like regular tea, pour some not quite boiling water over the tea bag (I find if the water is too hot, it ends up with the soggy cigarette butt taste some people complain about) and let it sit for a while (3-5 minutes). Or you could just microwave some water and throw in a teabag into a hot beverage travel cup if you're really pressed for time.

If you're not quite into the taste, you might find a different flavor blend more palatble (I hear this chai version is pretty popular).

Also, if you're looking for a sweetener (you're right to avoid aspartame and the other widely used chemical sweeteners) I find stevia quite pleasant. I use the dark liquid kind from SweetLeaf (stevia has some reported health benefits as well).

Best of luck kicking the soda habit! I quit two years ago and don't miss it at all. I tried to quit candy too but that was pure torture.
posted by zippity at 10:34 PM on January 9, 2007

TeJava iced tea. Very good bottled, unsweet, unsugared ice tea.
posted by ill3 at 10:54 PM on January 9, 2007

Also it's about 5 cents an ounce vs. red bulls 21 cents.
posted by ill3 at 11:01 PM on January 9, 2007

I know a lot of people think instant coffee is gross, but I find this tastes reasonable and it doesnt take long to nuke some hot water.

But I really like coffee and loathe diet soft drinks so my threshold for what kind of coffee tastes ok may be low. YMMV.
posted by juv3nal at 12:15 AM on January 10, 2007

Yerba matte in a commuter cup, with the bombilla, use hot tap water.The first sip will curl your hair. keep adding water as you drink, an ounce and a half of yerba should get you thru the morning with energy and clarity,the thirty percent Calcium RDA is a bonus.
posted by hortense at 12:37 AM on January 10, 2007

Best answer: I understand the Diet Coke/aspartame thing, but if you're not opposed to sode/cola in general here are some other options:

Tab [45mg] - It was Coca-Cola's diet cola for years, it's sweetened with saccharin and yes it's still available.
Diet Sun Drop [65mg], probably only available in NC/SC, tastes similar to Mt Dew, but better. Not sure what sweetener they use.
Diet Coke w/ Splenda [34mg] (vs 45mg in regular diet coke)

If you're interested in sodas, Wikipedia's Diet Soda list is pretty complete and especially useful when cross referenced with the Caffeine Database (mg ratings for hundreds of drinks).
posted by notpeter at 2:04 AM on January 10, 2007

To add to notpeter's post, Diet SunDrop is indeed wonderful and has way more caffiene than other pops like Diet Mountain Dew. It is, however, sweetened with aspartame.

It is, as he said, hard to find out of NC/SC, which is too bad because I'm addicted to it and moving away. Sigh.

As for a non-soda alternative, I find Lipton Diet Green Tea with Citrus really tasty. That's probably blasphemy to those out there who brew their own, but hey--it's grab and go! Oh darn, it is sweetened with aspartame, though.

I also really, really love Arnold Palmer Half and Half by AriZona. It's half lemonade, half black tea. It tastes wonderful! It is sweetened with Splenda, too. It's really hard to find though, unfortunately.
posted by bristolcat at 4:58 AM on January 10, 2007

I've seen them but always assumed that although that yes, they are technically caffeinated, it isn't near the dose from coffee, etc... True or false?

3 penguin mints = 1 cup of coffee. And they're pretty small.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:52 AM on January 10, 2007

Why don't you simply buy a coffee machine with a timer? All you have to do is remember to put some water and grinds into last thing before you go to bed, and set it to come on just before you get up. You can either drink with breakfast or pour it into a flask and take it with you.

I have one, it's great, and not expensive at all. I think the low end machines with a timer go for under $40 these days.
posted by modernnomad at 8:35 AM on January 10, 2007

You could try Bawls, although it might cost more than a bottle of toddy mix. Their sugar-free version (in the clear bottle) is sweetened with sucralose and jam-packed with delicious, nutritious caffeine.

Or, if you're really in a hurry, get some caffeinated soap, and just shower with your mouth open.
posted by Sallyfur at 8:58 AM on January 10, 2007

Recent article in the Washington Post about Enviga. Apparently there are challenges to its claim that it burns calories.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 12:39 PM on January 10, 2007

The AeroPress makes a decent very good cup of coffee very quickly (less than 2 minutes including cleanup after getting hot water). I don't know if that's convenient enough for you.
posted by jefftang at 1:03 PM on January 10, 2007

3 penguin mints = 1 cup of coffee. And they're pretty small.

Actually, I believe 3 mints = 1 soda; IIRC, they're 15 mg each.

I've occasionally eaten instant coffee straight when I'm in a hurry; the horrible taste really wakes you up almost as much as the caffeine. This may not, however, be something you're willing to tolerate.
posted by fermion at 11:43 AM on January 11, 2007

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